What is Project Yele working on in Sierra Leone?
Having participated in the design and reconstruction of the hydroelectric power plant in Yele, the team wants to ensure that the inhabitants of this rural village make the most of the energy provided.
In other words, we want to convert this energy into economic activity, through the Community Bazaar.
The aim is to organize a market in the center of Yele where – to start with – 16 local entrepreneurs will open their shops using the new facilities, such as electricity, clean drinking water and Internet. They will be able to sell products that weren’t previously available because of lack of electricity: from simple products such as ice cubes or cold drinks, to more important goods such as vaccines and medicines, that can now be stored in refrigerated areas.
Other beneficial energy services in the bazaar might include selling points and charging stations for portable LED lights, study rooms with lighting, and an Internet café, first-time privileges that could change the future of many locals.
Who does this benefit?
The products and services that the bazaar will offer will be available to 21,000 people; the 6,000 inhabitants of Yele as well as the 15,000 people in neighboring villages that will be attracted to its innovative facilities.
The pilot Bazaar will be built on Junction, the central roundabout in Yele, where four roads meet, facilitating access for neighboring communities. This location was chosen by Bai Sunthuba Osara III, Paramount Chief of Tonkolili District.
Furthermore, based on the statistic that in Sierra Leone one person has an average of 9 dependents, the 16 initial entrepreneurs will directly benefit a total of approximately 150 people.
The team has carried out extensive interviews and meetings with various members of the local community, consulting their needs, preferences and priorities to make sure that their needs are met and that they are the organizers and decision-makers in the initiative.
Promoting good business practices
In order to achieve a sustainable local economy and to ensure good business practices, Project Yele will employ an entrepreneurial coach, a local and experienced person who can train and advise the shop owners on how to set up and maintain their businesses, and make sure their ventures are a success.
A little background
Sierra Leone is a country still recovering from an extended civil war that ravaged its people and infrastructure for over a decade. The shortage of electricity for refrigeration has caused an important lack of essential vaccines and medicines that require cool storage.
The absence of this basic form of energy – which in Sierra Leone is only fully provided in three main cities (Freetown, Bo and Kenema) – provokes a long list of negative consequences, from lack of decent refrigeration, to no lighting in the evenings or lack of clean water. In rural Sierra Leone only 26% of the population has access to drinking water and 7% to electricity. One of the main reasons for mortality in the country arises from preventable water-borne diseases. Moreover, these illnesses affect mainly children under the age of 5. UNICEF has found that 29% of all deaths of children under 5 in Sierra Leone are caused by diarrhea.
This is only the beginning!
Yele is the first village where this innovative concept will be piloted, yet we are determined to extend this initiative to other comparable rural areas throughout the world, maintaining the belief that small and medium enterprises (SME’s) need to be empowered to ensure economic growth and sustainability.